Category Archives: food and drink

What are Foodbank prices really like?

I’d like to acknowledge that in having a car, the time and physical ability to shop around I am in a very priveledge position to even be able to venture to one or more foodbanks, along with having Coles, ALDI and Woolies in my town. I scour the catalogues like your granny would, and stretch my DSP far. I can walk away from a price I don’t find fair, many can’t and either have to pay the price offered or go without that item or another to compensate.Β 

People on welfare are the savviest shoppers around. They know when their preferred items are on special and where. You’ll remember your grandparents scripting and saving, carting their little granny trolley from shop to shop to gather their food for the fortnight on pension day. That’s what we all do now, but the pensions and certainly other payments like Youth Allowance and JobSeeker don’t go as far, so more and more people are using foodbanks for their regular grocery shops, if they have access to one, the car to get there or somehow luck out on one that delivers (Southlakes in my area does a $10 home delivered box of essentials each week, a rare gem) or is in walking or public transport distance.

Hours at the foodbanks are limited – for example the Salvos here is 10-1 Tuesday and Thursday, the community church 9-12 Thursday. And there’s often a line out the front, meaning people get there early (the oldies at the church I’ve seen at 8am for the $2 fresh fruit and veg boxes on offer at nine) or be prepared to hang around til it’s your turn. Which is fine again for those of us with time to kill, not if you’re wrangling toddlers or have mutual obligations with Centrelink, or medical appointments. Tensions can get high in the lines, everyone’s already on edge from *waves hands* life and all that, having to queue for a free bag of fruit and veges, or to get in to buy discounted items that you don’t have the usual choice over – no you can’t get the cereal the kids prefer or not get lavendar cos you hate it because if that’s what’s on offer and you need to fill that gap in your pantry or cleaning products, you get what’s on offer and at the price on offer. They say choice and control a lot on NDIS talk, people on welfare don’t have choice and control. Beggars can’t be choosers, but when someone cuts in line because they didn’t know the system or the supervisor makes you say please when you were being polite already…. that gets to you even when you’re usually easy-going.

Photo in a hall. There are fold out tables with boxes on them people are sorting groceries into the boxesA box o assorted groceries

Macquarie church at Cardiff does a $5 box weekly if you can get there between 1pm and 2.30pm

So, when you’re trying to stretch your budget and the foodbank is charging more than Woolies or Coles is you might question it. You might get told it’s the same as the supermarket, but it’s short dated so you think that’s not exactly fair. Or, it’s more expensive than the regular specials at the majors, or it’s a name brand but because your budget extends to home brand pricing, you can’t see how it’s fair to charge more than you’d pay for the home label or Aldi equivalent even though it has the shiny label.

Then you remember these items were donated by the supermarkets – written off for their own purposes to be seen as generous, or other shoppers have donated it at the checkout, paying full price for it with their own shopping…

Foodbank and Ozharvest collect donations, the most obvious ones those ones they ask for at the checkout. Presumably this goes to their transport costs, which would be substantial. But there’s also grants for these from all levels of government, and private donations. All these appeals for money and people wonder why they’re left paying $3 for a box of donated, short-dated weetbix.

On a white bench - a recycling bin, breadrolls, fruit buns, fingerbuns, sourdough

Free breads from the Friday foodbank

On Fridays I line up for my Ozharvest bag and breads (above) and then usually buy a bagful of groceries from certain shelves for $12. It’s $14 the first time, and $12 after that if you bring the bag bag to reuse. There’s always noodles and cereals, sauces I may or may not like, tins of chick peas and tomatoes. Other snacks and such vary. Again, you get a lot compared to full price, but it’s all short dated or past best before dates (they can sell it up to six months past a best before date). I just dislike that there’s no catering for special diets, wheat and carbs are king. And no preferences, just get what’s on offer.

Groceries on a bench:

Granola, crackers, milk , tins, noodles, cake mixes, sauces

That foodbank has a bunch of other shelves of individually priced goods they’ve purchased from Foodbank the charity. Please forgive the quality of the photos, I wasn’t supposed to be taking photos at all for privacy reasons but there’s noone in them….

Cans on a foodbank shelf. The photo is a little blurry

How much would you expect to pay for a can of beans at the foodbank? $1? Free? How about “2 for $4”? (Yes you can just buy one can, yes it’s bloody annoying that it’s ticketed that way casting more confusing into already meh situations) $2? Well, the beans are $2.20 at Coles, so that’s a fair price, according to this place. They figure since it’s less than full price of the supermarket it’s fair. And of course you don’t HAVE to buy it there, but as a poor person you expect that you’ll be getting a good price, right? Especially since you wouldn’t be buying Edgell if you were at coles, it’d be the $1.10 home brand option. screen cap from coles website Tins of beans for $2.20 a can

The little church foodbank I go to on Thursdays sells tins of beans for $1. I might get them if I need the ingredient for something but usually I’ll pick up a tin of something at ALDI.

Cans and other products ona foodbank shelf

How about cleaning products? Pine o Clean full price is $8 for 1.25L at the majors, but you can get a homebrand bottle for $2.50. At the first foodbank, they have them “2 for $12” or $6 a bottle. SO less than the brand, but more than homebrand. Plus you don’t get choice over scent. And I never would buy brand cleaners full price. A small Morning Fresh is $5.50 full price, but the various sizes are half price most weeks at either Coles or Woolies. There’s many cheaper dishwashing liquid options out there as you know – Choice ranks a bunch of them on their website. I usually just get and am happy with the ALDI one. Oh and the foodbank price? $3.

Pine o clean and toilet blech on a shelf morning fresh

How about milk? HOW ABOUT MILK? You ask. We know the pice of milk at the supermarket is a hot topic. It’s $4.50 for three litres at ALDI,Β  $6.20 at Coles. Remember when it was $1 a liter? lol Longlife milk is another option – Aldi 1L $1.59, 2L $3.09. Homebrand about the same $1.60,

long life full cream milk and vegemite on a foodbank shelfgroceries on a foodbank shelf

SO, what’s the foodbank asking for 2L of longlife Aldi full cream milk? $3 at one, $2.50 at the other. Or $2.50 for two 1L skim at the little church foodbank.

the $1.50 and 2 for $1.50 items at my local foodbank

Want non-dairy milk? $3 for a litre.

teabags, condenced milk, ling life nut milks

Now, TREATS is some we’re told we shouldn’t have, we shouldn’t buy a pack of biscuits and stick to noodles. But YOU DO DESERVE NICE THINGS. But you should be able to get them for a reasonable price. I look at the catalogues every Wednesday to see what’s half price at woolies, you can usually get a half price block of Cadbury or Nestle at one of Coles or Woolies. Never pay full price for brands.

BUT, let’s treat ourselves, we’re at the foodbank, depressed about the cost of groceries and food and life. SO, how about a chockie? Well you could pay $2 for a three pack of these Nutella biscuits, best before 28/09/2023. Or you could have gotten four packs for $1 at the little church the day before. Big W has them for $2.50, presumably with a longer best before date.

A dissplay of nutella bisuitsA dispplay of nutella bisuits

screenshot of nutelle biscuits from Big W website.

So yes, they’re cheaper than the full priced ones. But you don’t have the choice you do at the supermarket, and they have very short best before dates, which certainly works into how much you should pay, which is why Woolies donated this stuff in the first place. Choice matters. Being able to keep it more than a week matters.

Groceries on my nech

$18 at the little church foodbank


Other foodbank services might charge a membership fee. Or have a certain purchase amount before you can get the free bread. Rules vary, and this is just my little selection in my area. And I’m not doing this just to complain. But foodbanks aren’t free. And people need to know this, either so they know where their donations at the checkout are going or what if means when Coles and Woollies write off their products to charity. But also so you don’t go to a foodbank hungry, broke and tired and expect something for free. Because yes places do emergency free hampers, but again that usually means going through a social worker and there’s even less choice then.Good luck out there. You deserve to have nice things.

AUWU meetup at Bernie’s Bar Newcastle

Thanks to everyone who came to the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union meetup in Newcastle today and thanks to Bernie’s Bar for hosting us! Here’s some pics from the arvo of awesome people and yummy food!

Because I was super excited when reading the menu, Dan arranged for there to be fairy bread on arrival. Traditional, sliced white bread with margarine and all. Truly the party food of the unemployed worker.

Beanies, scarves and factsheets on a table

I brought along factsheets (downloadable here) and Nobody Deserves Poverty beanies and scarves for all – you can buy one in solidarity for $30 a piece on the website to support the work AUWU does and help fund these beanies for us!

Chicken burger with saladVege burger with chips

Burgers were had – Beef Brisket, Chick and Vego options (with Gluten free and vegan available too) and omg the chippies were great!!Β The bar wasn’t open to the public at the time, but they accommodated our request to turn down the music and turn off the glitter ball, as cool as it was.

beef brisket burget and chips

It was great to chat with a great group of people, some employed some not, some students, other applying for the DSP. All having experienced the wonder that is the Australian welfare system, and all agreeing it’s only getting harder to navigate and stay afloat on, by design.

We’d love to organise more meetups and more official events for AUWU members and supported in the Newcastle are (or Central Coast even, if anyone’s keen for a Gosford meet hit me up on the AUWU Discord or Twitter and we can work together to organise something and I’ll hop a train down! choo choo!)


Re-finding a new routine, with added players

A blurry baby photo. The baby is wearing pink and in is her mother's arm who is wearing a green dressing gown. They are in my kitchen

Bub has been in the world 17 days, kids have been living with us for 22 days. It’s busy and lovely and stressful and new and I’m slowly figuring out here I fit in all this, what I can look after and control, what works and doesn’t work for me and what I just have to remember is out of my control.

My kitchen with clen dishes

I’m doing my dishes in the morning still, cooking dinner for everyone in the evening. We’re still getting Everyplate boxes – upped it to four serves which is $50 extra a week, which makes it better value. Just trying to figure out what meals everyone likes and eats. I mean everyone eats every main, I just suss out the preferred meals. I’d love it, if you haven’t yet, sign up for a free trial box and I’ll get $25 credit towards ours πŸ™‚

Our landlord moved us to a new real estate agent, so they’ve booked an inspection for September 26. They’ve also organised for a plumber to do a water efficiency check on the property tomorrow, and I replied to their email about the inspection asking if the requested repairs from the June 2 inspection had been handed over, because the last real estate didn’t follow up on any of them, and of course not. So I re-requested the bathroom light and exhaust to be looked at since it is dodgy as and doesn’t always turn on with the lightswitch, and the two hotplates whose thermostats don’t kick in and the kids burned things the first time they cooked here since I hadn’t given them the rundown on which hotplates to avoid or use with caution.

We’re of course anxious about meeting a new real estate agent and what their expectations will be. We’re also out of lease and hope to get a new one – bearing in mind that the kids aren’t ON the lease and as adults should be to live here on a regular basis. Even though they were kids when we moved here, and still living at their mums, but the whole *situation* necessitated it and they’ve got a lot on their plate and public and social housing is this mythical unicorn, and who’s gonna rent to two new parents on youth allowance? So, it’s engaging with those services, social workers, mental health etc etc that I’m also supporting the kids to do. At least Bee could get into the non-bulk billing GP I go to since they were on their booked from when they tried living with us three years ago.

We have managed to acquire a bunch of home stuff from my Nanna’s deceased estate – a kettle, sandwich press, microwave, toaster, crockery and cutlery , much needed TOWELS (mine were all on their last legs without there being extra people!), and I’m getting the fridge and bed once the photos are taken for sale. So that’s been super helpful. I picked up another baby gate off marketplace to keep Maxi out of the kids room without permission. We’ve also sorted so much more of our own stuff, and moved everything car parts and computer parts wise out to the garage. Not sure yet if and when Ash, Bruce’s son will be joining us, but we’re as ready as we can be, ey?

I’m still going to my weekly Antabuse group, we did our urine tests this week to check whether we’d been taking other meds to cope with not being able to have alcohol, and surely I passed.

I’m excited and nervous about our Australian Unemployed Workers Union meetup this Thursday in town. 1pm at Bernie’s Bar (the Old Star Hotel) – you should RSVP and come! There’s gonna be free food and beanies and scarves and comrades!

me nd Maxi in our life jackets on the boat

Maxi and Bruce have been keeping me grounded

I want to say thank you again to family and friends who have been so supportive in so many ways from hugs to an ear to listen to me to cash to packets of nappies and biscuits off our wishlist. If you wanna help out materially, use those links or Buy Me A Coffee?

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers – Break the Poverty Machine

rotting basil

Coming at you in my first blog post as a step-grandmother blogger. I used to be an Aunty blogger in the heady days of 2010 Mummyblogging. Going to all the do’s, getting all the samples, subjecting my niece and nephew to them, sugaring them up, giving them the latest toys and being able to hand them back to their mother.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks – my stepdaughter and their partner moved in with us on the Sunday, bub was born on the Friday, and here we are a week later, trying to make sense of it all. It’s exciting and scary, and not entirely my story to tell, so I won’t. But I’ve gotten a lot of support, material and moral, from my little internet community. So thank you so very very much!

It’s better than I can say for this basil I unfortunately picked up for my sister this morning in the weekly OzHarvest bag from the local charity. The produce arrives at Cardiff from Ozharvest on the Thursday, the volunteers pack it into usually plastic hopping bags and it gets put into their fridge overnight to be handed out at 9am. The bags are tied at the top, and you get told off by the boss if you ask for a particular bag or try to look in it holding up the queue. And some of it’s fine, but from what my sister tells me, it lasts only a couple of days, maybe til Monday at best, due to the fridging and unfridging. I know the items are going to have a short self life since they’ve been picked up from the supermarkets cos they won’t sell them.

It bugs me that Labor will announce they’re funding a warehouse so a foodbank can expand rather than raising the rate of welfare payments we can all afford to buy the food we want when we want it form the local supermarket. It frustrates me that Foodbank are pushing for changes to tax laws to encourage more donations of food rather than pushing to end poverty.

Too many people are having long lunches and pulling six figure salaries while I’m embarrassed by the scraps I collect for my family. I like the idea of food rescue, but palming off wilted greens and bruised fruit that won’t live til the next schoolday isn’t fair to those who should really just be getting enough money to live from their government.

It’s 40 days til the holey parachute of welfare increases comes in. My little family will see an extra $120 a fortnight when you take into account the increases and indexations on offer on September 20. We’re not starving and we’re not out on the street, but there’s a lot that should be better.

Nanna needs a nap.

Black Dog Institute Summit on Self-Harm #BDISummit

Pretty obviously there’s a content note about this post for suicide and self-harm

Thanks to Livingworks, I received a bursary to attend the Black Dog Institute Summit on Self Harm in Sydney last week. It was a huge day, starting with catching the 4.51am train down, so I’ll reflect on it with prompting from the posts under the #BDISummit hashtag

The day before, most of the experts had been at a summit organised by the Lancet on putting together the research from around the world on self-harm and suicide statistics, themes and prevention. Lots of British accents, but also people from around the world. There were people researching self harm in lower and middle income countries and how the reasons for, means, and intentions vary from high-income countries. There were also Indigenous perspectives and reminding us that all the basics, like income above the poverty line, less traumatic emergency department experiences, and compassion in general lead to such great results.

Conference mode means mentos and apparently these fancy glasses that I was so tempted to smuggle out but I was good and stuck to perishables like a banana for breakfast the next day and few tea bags.

Emergency and Inpatient Departments are not fit for purpose

Nearly everyone who has gone to the emergency department feeling suicidal or having self harmed in some way has had one or more bad experiences. If you had a good experience, that is amazing and you probably went on to seek and get treatment and didn’t end up back there. If you do survived the assessment in an unsuitable place without excusing yourself, you face a super long wait for any outpatient therapy, or if you end up in inpatient it can also be a very scary, far from healing experience :/

What use is giving CBT to someone in poverty?Β 

Well, given the long waiting lists that psychologists have in Australia, the huge gap you’re up for in most instances if you do get in to see someone, we’re not even at the point of being able to see what a good block of therapy can do while someone is subsisting on welfare in this country. Personally I was fortunate enough to do my block f DBT but I wouldn’t have gotten into that if I hadn’t been at the point of self harming and having the right diagnosis, and surviving the year you need to before the program commences. I have too many friends on Twitter (whose demise is distresses for many who have it as their lifeline quite literally when it comes to seeking emotional and financial support)Β  who saw their mental health stablise when JobSeeker was above the poverty line and mutual obligations were suspended and they were just left to be by a system that is designed to make money for providers without having to give outcomes to “participants”. argh.

Lived and LIVING experience

Interesting discussion at the podium and in the breaks about living experience of self harm and the validity of being able to live a meaningful life while still self-harming. But differentiating this from the person who appears to be well, who is going about their right daily activities, but s struggling or suffering privately. There was discussion around “protecting” the lived experience workforce from further harm as well as allowing those who are participating in research or work to be able to identify for themselves whether they are currently well enough to take part – like me coming to the summit that day and being able to identify if I needed to tap out, or knowing that I would be worn out in the following days from the experience, whether that is just from the early start, social and masking spoons used, or form any more emotional energy from such a heavy topic.

Last of all, what’s an event post with me without the food?

Breakfast was served during the initial session, with mueslie and yoghurt, and mini big breakfast (thankfully without eggs) coming to the table with pots of coffee.

Raspberry and banana bread and fresh fruit at morning tea, along with a nice cold iced tea.

There was hot food at lunch, but I had a couple of chicken rolls and some Greek Salad. I took a couple of rolls for the train ride home for dinner along with some of the fruit at morning tea.

Chocolate slices for afternoon tea – a very sense brownie for me with a little more coffee for the afternoon roll home.

Nice swift train and tram ride home – I wasn’t murdered in the dingy Star casino light rail station which was a relief!

Where to from here? I watched part of a webinar from Lived Experience Australia on how to become a peer worker on Monday, but it was the basic things like do the course and network and find out where you really want to use your skills… And I kinda know that. I also know that I looked up the peer worker course that TAFE NSW runs and immediately realised I don’t yet want to commit to formal study, and so won’t even apply for anything for first semester next year if at all. Maybe 2024. I’m finding that one external engagement outside my own appointments and anything that I take my niblings to is more than enough currently, like the summit, or a modelling day, or a Greens event. And I want to keep doing that stuff. I also don’t know if peer work as such is for me, but I’m glad being a researcher with lived experience of self harm was also modelled at the summit.

And I was also so very excited that on the same day, my blogging buddy Trae was presenting at a conference over in Perth alongside Grace Tame as someone with lived experience of mental illness. Recovery is so cool. But also seeing and hearing my friends and myself thrive after so many years surviving.